Archive for September, 2016

The Selkirk Crest from Myrtle Peak


Late this summer I embarked on a ‘Solo’ backpacking trip through the Selkirks. The plan was to start up Myrtle Peak, bush-wack my way over to Ball/Pyramid Lakes, then hike over and up to Trout and Big Fisher Lakes, back round again past Long Mountain Lake and then out through Parker Ridge.

That was the plan – and the expectation was that I’d be tackling about 40 miles in roughly 2.5 days – where around 10 of those miles would be bush-wacking (i.e., off-trail and on my own). The hike ended up being spectacular – even though some foul weather pushed me into a contingency plan that cut off about 10 miles out of my trip (more on that in subsequent posts).

The View from Myrtle Peak is Spectacular

Today, though, I just wanted to share what’s been my desktop background for the last 2 or 3 days – the view from Myrtle Peak (and by using an iOS Panorama, this view captures what you’d see looking south, west, and north).

There’s more granite and beauty in this shot than I can cover in a single 3 to 9 sentence post. Crack it open, and take a look. It’s not a great photo by any stretch – but the landscape it captures is just plain gorgeous.

SQL Server Standard Edition Memory Limits – A Better Way?

With SQL Server 2012, Microsoft changed how SQL Server was licensed – by making customers pay per core instead of per socket. While this caused grumbling among SQL Server professionals and customers, I’ve always seen it as a MOSTLY fair move on Microsoft’s part – as their goal with licensing SQL Server has always been to charge customers based upon the amount of compute being handled by SQL Server.

Where this change feels a bit less than fair, though, is when it comes to the artificial limitations put into place against SQL Server’s Standard Edition’s use of RAM (SQL Server 2012 Standard Edition was limited to an absurd 64GB of RAM, whereas SQL Server 2016 and 2016 Standard Editions are limited to a still paltry 128GB of RAM).

Stated differently, I think it’s fair for Microsoft to charge customers per core – but not if they’re going to heavily curtail how much compute you can do with this core by severely limiting the amount of RAM you can allocated per core. (Standard Edition Licenses weigh in at around $2,800 per core – but if you’ve dropped $45K for a 16 core 2014 Standard Edition box, you’re limited to a paltry 8GB of RAM per core – whereas a 2016 instance with 24 cores would cost $65,000 yet top out at a miserly 5.33GB/core of RAM – or less RAM per core (for a higher overall price).)

A Better Way?

Yes, there are ways around this limitation (like using Buffer Pool Extensions (available on Standard Edition) or even potentially spinning up multiple instances per OSE – as the 128GB RAM limitation is per instance NOT per host), and Enterprise Edition really isn’t that expensive when you compare it to Oracle or even when you think about how much it will DO for you in a given year (and compare how much it costs per year to, say, what you’d pay 2 or 3 employees per year).

Still, I think there might be a better way: Enable up to 32GB of RAM per each 2-core Standard Edition ‘pack’ licensed. With this approach, a simple 4-core VM could pull off up to 64GB of RAM, a ‘decent’ Standard Edition instance with 8 cores could pull off up to 128GB of RAM (the max currently in place today) and a higher-end 2016 box with 24 cores (i.e., 12x 2-core packs) could top out at 384GB of RAM.

Arguably, this approach would add a tiny bit of additional complexity into the licensing landscape (and orgs running 4-core boxes today with 128GB of RAM would obviously find fault with my ‘logic’), but I’d wager that medium to large Standard Edition instances would benefit tremendously – to the point I’d even guess that Microsoft Support Services would probably field a slightly smaller number of support calls for performance related issues simply because of the extra benefits additional RAM can provide to SQL Server workloads.

Enchantments – 2016

This summer, my brother (Jed), his son (Aaron), and my oldest son (Caleb), and I decided to do a hike-through tour of the Enchantments – which Wikipedia describes thusly:

The Enchantments is regarded as one of the most spectacular locations in the Cascade Range.

In my estimation, Wikipedia is underplaying The Enchantments quite a bit.

A Grueling Hike – But Well Worth It

It’s easy to get to and even hike into the Enchantments – but permits to camp are allocated on a lottery basis every year. And, since we didn’t have a permit, we decided to do the entire 22 mile hike in a single day – which is a bit of a beast when you count in the 4500+ feet of elevation you’ll pick up during some parts of this hike.

Here’s what the hike looked like from my Fitbit’s perspective (note the number of stairs it estimated – thanks to the huge ascent we took up Aasgard Pass):


More Triple4KBackgrounds

Otherwise, I’ve uploaded just a couple of the gorgeous Panoramas I was able to take on this trip – in case anyone wants them as #triple4kbackgrounds:

Colchuck Lake – Looking towards Aasgard Pass (which is just to the left of that massive block of granite right in the center of this pic).

Some ‘watermelon’ snow in the upper Enchantments (with little Annapurna left-of-center in the background).

The back-side of Dragontail Peak (with the summit of Aasgard Pass right in the center of the image).

SQL Sentry’s Plan Explorer PRO – Now Completely Free

Wow, that’s very impressive – and a huge win for SQL Server Professionals everywhere.


SQL Sentry just announced that the PRO version of Plan Explorer is now completely free – as in you don’t even have to register to use it. (For those in the know, there used to be two versions: a ‘lighter-weight’ free version, and a paid-for PRO version; they’ve now consolidated all features into the PRO version – and made it free.)

Spoil Yourself with Better Insight and Analysis

I’ll be honest: since I spend so much of my time on my clients’ machines when analyzing performance problems and looking at execution plans, I’ve made a conscious effort in the past to avoid using Plan Explorer too much in my Lab – for fear of spoiling myself.

This announcement changes all of that – meaning that I’ll have a whole suite of additional tools at my disposal when performance tuning or troubleshooting.

SQL Sentry’s Motivation

It doesn’t take a genius to see that SQL Sentry is trying to use Plan Explorer PRO to establish a ‘foot in the door’ with as many potential customers and clients as possible.

But a maneuver like this only works with a market when you’re providing something that users REALLY want, management can easily see the value being offered, and the tool being offered is really solid (non-buggy).

Interestingly enough, that sums up Plan Explorer PRO perfectly.

One of My Favorite Undocumented T-SQL Snippets

While there are tons of undocumented T-SQL commands out there, one of my all-time favorites is this little gem:


It’s not much, but it will show you default details on:


 Arguably, there are better ways to retrieve some of this information (like SELECT * FROM sys.dm_server_registry;).

But SERVERPROPERTY(‘ErrorLogFileName’) works just fine when looking for low-level details.

The only real problem I have with this particular snippet of T-SQL is that I can never remember EXACTLY what the property is to ‘search’ for (i.e., ‘ErrorLogFileName’) – which is part of why I’ve blogged about it (so that I’ll be able to more easily find this snippet in the future).

Triple 4K Monitors – Backgrounds

As part of a workstation upgrade in January I grabbed a video card (that was more than) capable of driving 3x 4K monitors simultaneously – along with 3x Dell P2415Q Monitors. I’ve now been using 3x 4K monitors for over half a year (previously I was using 3x 1680×1050 monitors – so this has been quite the upgrade), and I’ve got to say that after all of this time, I’m still totally and completely, head-over-heals in love.

Two Minor Issues

I have, however, run into two very MINOR issues running these monitors (and one huge problem that I’ll cover in a subsequent post as it’s not so much a 4K problem as a Windows/Display Port problem).

1. Where’s my Cursor? In a sea of nearly 25 million pixels (each 4K monitor sports 3840 x 2160 resolution – or 8.29 million pixels each), I’ve found myself chuckling a few times at the few seconds it can occasionally take to find a tiny 32 x 32 pixel cursor hiding amongst one of my 3 monitors.

2. Backgrounds / Wallpaper. Unsurprisingly, there just aren’t that many great backgrounds that remain crisp and non-pixelated when being displayed on 3x 4K monitors running side by side – or at 11,520 x 2160 resolution.

Some Options

Happily, I have found a few sites that provide ‘good enough’ resolution backgrounds or wallpaper that have helped provide me with some options or backgrounds.

More importantly, I’ve also found that iOS Panoramas typically provide for fantastic triple-monitor backgrounds – they’re easy enough to take, and provide plenty of pixels to keep everything very crisp and vibrant when running triple 4K monitors.

To that end, I’ll be sharing a few of the #triple4Kbackgrounds I’ve taken during my own adventures – starting with this panorama (of Upper Ball Lake – in Northern Idaho’s Selkirk Mountains) I took last week while on my ‘Solo 2016’ backpacking trip.

Early Morning on Upper Ball Lake

3 to 9 Blog – An Introduction

Scott Hanselman (blog|twitter) is right, it’s time to stop ‘pouring’ our ideas into closed systems (i.e., social media) that usurp ownership of our thoughts and sap our ability to share things of value with one-another.

In short: I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and it’s time I got back to regular blogging.

A big part of what’s kept me away from blogging for so long though, is that I tend to be a bit too verbose – which means that blogging can too easily become a tedious affair where I spend too much time word-smithing my way through long, overly thought-out, posts.

That, and no one these days seems to have much patience for more than a bit of content at a time anyhow.

So, I’m trying something new: regular, concise, blog-posts – to the tune of roughly 3 to 9 sentences per post. (If I find something that I really need to ‘rant’ about (or want to cover by means of a tutorial), I’ll set up a ‘long-blog’ and tackle details there.)

Keep an eye out, I’ll try to keep things interesting.